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Captain Morgan takes the castle of Chagre, with four hundred men sent for this purpose from the Isle of St. Catharine.
CAPTAIN MORGAN sending these four ships and a boat to the river of Chagre, chose for Vice-Admiral thereof a certain person named Captain Brodely. This man had been a long time in those quarters, and committed many robberies upon the Spaniards when Mansvelt took the Isle of St Catharine, as was related in the Second Part of this history. He, being therefore well acquainted with those coasts, was thought a fit person for this exploit, his actions likewise having rendered him famous among the Pirates, and their enemies the Spaniards. Captain Brodely being chosen chief commander of these forces, in three days after he departed from the presence of Captain Morgan arrived within sight of the said castle of Chagre, which by the Spaniards is called St. Lawrence. This castle is built upon a high mountain, at the entry of the river, and surrounded on all sides with strong palisades or wooden walls, being very well terre-pleined, and filled with earth, which renders them as secure as the best walls made of stone or brick. The top of this mountain is in a manner divided into two parts, between which lies a ditch, of the depth of thirty foot. The castle itself has but one entry, and that by a drawbridge which passes over the ditch aforementioned. On the land side it has four bastions, that of the sea containing only two more. That part thereof which looks towards the South is totally inaccessible and impossible to be climbed, through the infinite asperity of the mountain.
The North side is surrounded by the river, which hereabouts runs very broad. At the foot of the said castle, or rather mountain, is seated a strong fort, with eight great guns, which commands and impedes the entry of the river. Not much lower are to be seen two other batteries, whereof each hath six pieces of cannon, to defend likewise the mouth of the said river. At one side of the castle are built two great store-houses, in which are deposited all sorts of warlike ammunition and merchandize, which are brought thither from the inner parts of the country. Near these houses is a high pair of stairs, hewed out of the rock, which serves to mount to the top of the castle. On the West side of the said fortress lies a small port, which is not above seven or eight fathom deep, being very fit for small vessels and of very good anchorage. Besides this, there lies before the castle, at the entry of the river, a great rock, scarce to be perceived above water, unless at low tide.
No sooner had the Spaniards perceived the Pirates to come than they began to fire incessantly at them with the biggest of their guns. They came to an anchor in a small port, at the distance of a league more or less from the castle. The next morning very early they went on shore, and marched through the woods, to attack the castle on that side. This march continued until two o'clock in the afternoon, before they could reach the castle, by reason of the difficulties of the way, and its mire and dirt. And although their guides served them exactly, notwithstanding they came so near the castle at first that they lost many of their men with the shot from the guns, they being in an open place where nothing could cover nor defend them. This much perplexed the Pirates in their minds, they not knowing 'what to do, nor what course to take, for on that side of necessity they must make the assault, and being uncovered from head to foot, they could not advance one step without great danger. Besides that, the castle, both for its situation and strength, caused them much to fear the success of that enterprize. But to give it over they dared not, lest they should be reproached and scorned by their companions.
At last, after many doubts and disputes among themselves, they resolved to hazard the assault and their lives after a most desperate manner. Thus they advanced towards the castle, with their swords in one hand and fire-balls in the other. The Spaniards defended themselves very briskly, ceasing not to fire at them with their great guns and muskets continually, crying withal: Come on, ye English dogs,enemies to God and our King; let your other companions that are behind come on too; ye shall not go to Panama this bout. After the Pirates had made some trial to climb up the walls, they were forced to retreat, which they accordingly did, resting themselves until night. This being come, they returned to the assault, to try if by the help of their fire-balls they could overcome and pull down the pales before the wall. This they attempted to do, and while they were about it there happened a very remarkable accident, which gave them the opportunity of the victory. One of the Pirates was wounded with an arrow in his back, which pierced his body to the other side. This instantly he pulled out with great valour at the side of his breast; then taking a little cotton that lie had about him, he wound it about the said arrow, and putting it into his musket, he shot it back into the castle. But the cotton being kindled by the powder, occasioned two or three houses that were within the castle, being thatched with palm-leaves, to take fire, which the Spaniards perceived not so soon as was necessary. For this fire meeting with a parcel of powder, blew it up, and thereby caused great ruin, and no less consternation to the Spaniards, who were not able to account for this accident, not having seen the beginning thereof.
Thus the Pirates, perceiving the good effect of the arrow and the beginning of the misfortune of the Spaniards, were infinitely gladdened thereat. And while they were busied in extinguishing the fire, which caused great confusion in the whole castle, having not sufficient water wherewithal to do it, the Pirates made use of this opportunity, setting fire likewise to the palisades. Thus the fire was seen at the same time in several parts about the castle, which gave them huge advantage against the Spaniards. For many breaches were made at once by the fire among the pales, great heaps of earth falling down into the ditch. Upon these the Pirates climbed up, and got over into the castle, notwithstanding that some Spaniards, who were not busied about the fire, cast down upon them many flaming pots, full of combustible matter and odious smells, which occasioned the loss of many of the English.
The Spaniards, notwithstanding the great resistance they made, could not hinder the palisades from being entirely burnt before midnight. Meanwhile the Pirates ceased not to persist in their intention of taking the castle. To which effect, although the fire was great, they would creep upon the ground, as nigh unto it as they could, and shoot amidst the flames, against the Spaniards they could perceive on the other side, and thus cause many to fall dead from the walls. When day was come, they observed all the moveable earth that lay between the pales to be fallen into the ditch in huge quantity. $o that now those within the castle did in a manner lie equally exposed to them without, as had been on the contrary before. Whereupon the Pirates continued shooting very furiously against them, and killed great numbers of Spaniards. For the Governor had given them orders not to retire from those posts which corresponded to the heaps of earth fallen into the ditch, and caused the artillery to be transported to the breaches.
Notwithstanding, the fire within the castle still continued, and now the Pirates from abroad used what means they could to hinder its progress, by shooting incessantly against it. One party of the Pirates was employed only to this purpose, and another commanded to watch all the motions of the Spaniards, and take all opportunities against them. About noon the English happened to gain a breach, which the Governor himself defended with twenty-five soldiers. Here was performed a very courageous and warlike resistance by the Spaniards, both with muskets, pikes, stones and swords. Yet notwithstanding, through all these arms the Pirates forced and fought their way, till at last they gained the castle. The Spaniards who remained alive cast themselves down from the castle into the sea, choosing rather to die precipitated by their own selves (few or none surviving the fall) than ask any quarter for their lives. The Governor himself retreated to the corps du garde, before which were placed two pieces of cannon. Here he intended still to defend himself, neither would he demand any quarter. But at last he was killed with a musket shot, which pierced his skull into the brain.
The Governor being dead, and the corps du garde surrendered, they found still remaining in it alive to the number of thirty men, whereof scarce ten were not wounded. These informed the Pirates that eight or nine of their soldiers had deserted their colours, and were gone to Panama to carry news of their arrival and invasion. These thirty men alone were remaining of three hundred and fourteen, wherewith the castle was garrisoned, among which number not one officer was found alive. These were all made prisoners, and compelled to tell whatsoever they knew of their designs and enterprizes. Among other things they declared that the Governor of Panama had notice sent him three weeks ago from Cartagena, how that the English were equipping a fleet at Hispaniola, with design to come and take the said city of Panama. Moreover, that this their intention had been known by a person, who was run away from the Pirates, at the river De la Hacha, where they provided their fleet with corn. That, upon this news, the said Governor had sent one hundred and sixty four men to strengthen the garrison of that castle, together with much provision and warlike ammunition; the ordinary garrison whereof did only consist of one hundred and fifty men. So that in all they made the number aforementioned of three hundred and fourteen men, being all very well armed. Besides this they had declared that the Governor of Panama had placed several ambuscades all along the river of Chagre; and that he waited for their coming, in the open fields of Panama, with three thousand six hundred men.
The taking of this castle of Chagre cost the Pirates excessively dear, in comparison to the small numbers they used to lose at other times and places. Yea, their toil and labour here far exceeded what they sustained at the conquest of the Isle of St. Catharine and its adjacent. For coming to number their men, they found they had lost above one hundred, besides those that were wounded, whose number exceeded seventy. They commanded the Spaniards that were prisoners to cast all the dead bodies of their own men down from the top. of the mountain to the seaside, and afterwards to bury them. Such as were wounded were carried to the church belonging to the castle, of which they made a hospital, and where also they shut up the women.
Captain Morgan remained not long time behind at the Isle of St. Catharine, after taking the castle of Chagre; of which he had notice presently sent him. Yet notwithstanding, before he departed thence, he caused to be embarked all the provisions that could be found, together with great. quantities of maize or Indian wheat, and cassava, whereof in like manner is made bread in those parts. He commanded likewise great store of provisions should be transported to the garrison of the aforesaid castle of Chagre, from what parts soever they could be got. At a certain place of the island they cast into the sea all the guns belonging thereto, with a design to return and leave that island well garrisoned, for the perpetual possession of Pirates. Notwithstanding he ordered all the houses and forts to be set on fire, excepting only the castle of St. Teresa. which he judged to be the strongest and securest wherein to fortify himself at his return from Panama. He carried with him all the prisoners of the island, and thus set sail for the river of Chagre, where he arrived in the space of eight days. Here the joy of the whole fleet was so great, when they spied the English colours upon the castle that they minded not their way into the river, which occasioned them to lose four of their ships at the entry thereof, that wherein Captain Morgan went being one of the four. Yet their fortune was so good as to be able to save all the men and goods that were in the said vessels. Yea, the ships likewise had been preserved, if a strong northerly wind had not risen on that occasion, which cast the ships upon the rock abovementioned, that lies at the entry of the said river.
Captain Morgan was brought into the castle with great acclamations of triumph and joy of all the Pirates, both of those who were within, and also them that were but newly come. Having understood the whole transactions of the conquest, he commanded all the prisoners to begin to work, and repair what was necessary. Especially in setting up new palisades, or pales, round about the forts depending on the castle. There were still in the river some Spanish vessels, called by them chatten, which serve for the transportation of merchandize up and down the said river, as also for going to Porto Bello and Nicaragua. These are commonly mounted. with two great guns of iron and four other small ones of brass. All these vessels they seized on, together with four little ships they found there, and all the canoes, In the castle they left a garrison of five hundred men, and in the ships within the river one hundred and fifty more. These things being done, Captain Morgan departed towards Panama, at the head of one thousand two hundred men. He carried very small provisions with him, being in good hopes he should provide himself sufficiently among the Spaniards, whom he knew to lie in ambuscade at several places by the way.